Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Geopiece of the Day: The independent Republic of Užupis

Nestled in Vilnius, Lithuania the independent  Republic of Užupis is a small part, barely more than half a square kilometer, of the city that is geographically "challenged" due to its location of the banks of the Vilnia river. Užupis is literally translated to "on the other side of the river" and is a major draw to artists and lovers of the bohemian lifestyle. The district that encompasses parts of the old town center of the Lithuanian capital and has been elevated to a UNESCO World Heritage Site harbors only about 7,000 people and one in seven has the professional work tag of artist in the community.

Bordered by a river, steep hills and old soviet industrial grounds the district is a perfect nest of the artist movement seen by the rich graffiti of many of its buildings. 

The egg statue of "Independent on the other side of the river" Later replaced by an angel and sold via auction

The Republic declared its independence on April Fool´s Day 1 April 1997 and introduced their own anthem, currency, governmental structure and raised an army. The army approximately encompasses a fighting force of 12 man. One of the freedom symbols of the Republic is a statue of musician Frank Zappa, which was conceived in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union. Due to the nature of the rise of the iron curtain and the impressive nature of the number of statues left depicting communist leaders something had to be done. Statues of Lenin were torn down left and right and plenty of plinths remained with no statues on them to showcase. So they decided to erect a statue of Frank Zappa, naturally.

If you are looking for an off the grid travel destination "On the other side of the river" might be for you.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Geopiece of the Day: Museum of the Holy Souls in Purgatory

It happens to all of us. One of your loved ones is no longer with you on this earth and according to the Roman Catholic Canon he might not have been qualified for a direct ascension to heaven. Maybe he wore shirts of linen and polyester blends or dared to cut his beards, activities that are strictly forbidden according to Leviticus bible passages, and therefore the poor soul is doing his time in purgatory.

The souls are apparently trying to reach out to their loved ones making contact in order to elicit prayer that can reduce their time spent in fiery purgatory. Their scorched handprints may adorn holy books and other everyday objects. These items are not only really cool but also highly collectible. That is why a priest in the church of the sacred heart in Rome, after seeing an apparition in a fire that destroyed the altar of the church, decided to start a collection of otherworldly items. One of the sub reasons might also have been the wavering belief in catholic dogma and therefore displaying awesome ghostly items of faith comes as no surprise.

The collection is now a museum within the church and features articles touched by purgatory souls.

The idea of souls in the purgatory came about in the 11th century, when a monk returned from the Holy Land. He told a story about how his ship had been wrecked and he was washed ashore on an island inhabited by a hermit, who claimed that he had seen a mysterious chasm filled with demons and souls. The demons suffering from low work satisfaction complained about souls ascending to heaven by prayer of the living and donations to the poor.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Phallic Specimen, Phallic Specimen everywhere!

Enter a centre of research, education and exhibition place that bears the name of “The Icelandic Phallological museum”. To put it in more simple terms it is a Penis museum, featuring a large number of the aforementioned primary male sexual organ conserved in jars of all sizes in formaldehyde.

The land of fire and ice announces its popular attraction in two unique ways. First by giving the statement that the phallus museum, which by the way has the excellent internet web address of phallus.is, by saying it is probably the only museum in the world to contain a collection of phallic specimens belonging to all the various types of mammal found in a single country.

Secondly by displaying the proud penis-shaped sign, the only way to give visitors a proper welcome. Certainly one of the worlds best museums on  the world of phallology,  educating us about the penis, and of its place in history, art, and society.

The museum prides itself on a collection of 280 specimens from 93 different species. Most of them from whales, sea and land mammals. Of course some of the examples are attributed to elves and trolls.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Geopiece of the Day: Former Austrian Royalty tried to sell Count Dracula´s Castle

Bran Castle alleged home to the inspiration for Dracula

The alleged castle of Vlad the impaler, famous for taking his fathers patrimonious name of Dracul and impaling people on stakes in his free time, was according to history fond of this location. His specialties were taking the reign over the country 3 times in his life with breaks in between to perfect his staking techniques.

The castle is marketed as the home of Bram Stoker´s Dracula and inherently connected to the movie. The more interesting story behind the high walled structure is its history in the 20th century after it had already existed for 700 years, built by teutonic knights in the 13th century.

The alleged owner of the property

Bran castle became a royal residence to the ruling family of the Kingdom of Romania in 1920, formerly part of the Austrian empire. After World War II the communists took power in Romania and decided to oust royals because maintaining a royal family does not make you well liked in the union of communist countries. The properties were repossessed and now belonged to the Communist ruling party.

Let´s skip ahead half a century to the year 2005. The now democratic Romanian government decided to award the castle to the former owners, the Habsburg line of royalty, and gave the castle to the heir of the Austrian Imperial family, Dominic von Habsburg.

What followed was:

The Romanian government tried to take the castle back as the thought laws of restitution were not legal.

The Romanian courts rejected this stance.

Dominic von Habsburg tried to sell the castle back for the mere sum of $80 million.

The government rejected the offer.

Being a prudent businessman Dominic turned the castle into a tourist hotspot. The castle is the first private museum in the whole country of Romania.